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Romney's Prep School Hazing

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It might have seemed like a pretty safe audience: a room full of smart, well-heeled students at Phillips Exeter Academy crowded around to hear Mitt Romney answer some questions about running for president.

The famed -- and expensive -- prep school can't be foreign to Romney, whose state of Massachusetts has quite a few private campuses with ivy-covered brick buildings filled with highly-educated folks.

But the teenagers did not go easy on the one-time governor from neighboring Massachusetts. Several of the questions were as tough as any the presidential hopeful has received so far on the trail.

He got a question about his health care plan, with the young questioner comparing the plan he passed in Massachusetts with that of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the New York senator.

Another asked why, as governor, he opted his state out of regional environmental standards that aimed to cap carbon emissions in the Northeast.

But it was Kevin Daly, 15, from Romney's own state, who really bored in. He accused Romney of supporting gay rights and abortion as governor only to change positions on those issues as a presidential candidate.

"How can any of your campaign promises be trusted?" the young man asked.

"Good question," Romney said, adding that "it's real good if it were accurate."

Romney then quizzed Daly, who had mentioned what he said was a newspaper article's citation of Romney's support for gay marriage during his losing 1994 senate campaign against Ted Kennedy.

"They said I was opposed to gay marriage? Did they say I was in favor of gay marriage? Then they were wrong," Romney said.

As about 100 students and faculty looked on, Romney then explained his position: "I've never been an advocate of gay marriage. I've opposed gay marriage and civil unions. Now, at the same time, I'm against discrimination."

The audience started laughing.

"You see," Romney started, obviously eager to explain. "No one that I know, even Ted Kennedy, wasn't for gay marriage at the time."

Romney went on to explain that he is against discrimination in employment and housing but has always been opposed to gay marriage. He said those may not be consistent positions, but insisted that both have been his long-held views.

He then defended his change in thinking on abortion, saying he had come to believe that "in a civilized society, you have to respect the sanctity of human life. That's where I am. I appreciate the question because it allowed me to clear it up."

Romney got a couple of softball questions, and then one about medical marijuana and it was over. After a radio interview and a quick gaggle with reporters, the former governor was off to the airport for a flight to Iowa, where he might just be thinking that there are fewer smarty-pants kids at prep schools.

But then again, farm policy is no picnic either.

--Michael D. Shear

By Washington Post editors  |  October 25, 2007; 6:47 PM ET
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I watched it again. He is really sharp. SHREWD man. Not suckered even by the little manipulative, sweet elitist faces that mimick back MSM questions. We have the rare opportunity to elect an extraordinarily qualified POTUS this cycle count me in baby.

Posted by: avalon6 | November 16, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

OH geez you can all just be quiet about how Clinton is gonna whoop Mitt. Nothing is set in stone.
And most articles are one sided, so don't believe everything you read.(including this one)
Bridgeway- you are awesome!
Mr. Daly and Jade7243- you are both wrong. He's about as honest as it gets in politics.
mattmcdonough200- we are all screwed if Clinton wins the elections.

Posted by: Tash_Carrell735 | November 3, 2007 3:03 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Shear,
Your article seams eager to reinforce the notion that Romney is a flip flopper. The quotes that you select to express Romney's positions are scatter shot and misleading. Here is a contrary set of quotes "You may say that I should be for gay marriage, but I'm not. I'm in favor of traditional marriage." "I'm also in favor of not having discrimination in the workplace and housing." "And you may say well thats not consistent, but thats where I've been from the beginning." In reference to the last quote, you slantingly paraphrase, "He said those may not be consistent positions, but insisted that both have been his long-held views." You also helpfully kept from fact checking the statement that the student made about Romney supporting gay marriage in 94. The student was very poised and held his composure when questioned by Romney, but I suspect that the favorable impression he apparently made on you stifled your ability to report in an even handed manner. As Romney said your article "is real good if it were accurate."

Posted by: delvinator84 | October 29, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Mitt just won the first ever Republican straw poll in North Dakota. His influence is slowly spreading...

New Hampshire (a ten point lead this week!)
Idaho (I believe)
North Dakota

In California, Mitt is now #2.

In South Carolina he's got a good chance and has received support from Evangelicals, from the founder of the Pro-Life movement, John Willke, to Bob Jones University chief Bob Jones III.

In Florida, Mitt this week scored major support for his immigration reform proposals from Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter, who rejected Fred Thompson. (Hunter is the guy who must enforce immigration.)

The Log Cabin Gay Republicans are campaigning against Mitt, which is a great endorsement for his values conservatism if you ask me.

Everywhere Mitt actually focuses, Mitt moves up, and for good reason. Mitt has the character, values, presence of mind, private and public sector economic experience, and raw ability to handle the Presidency like no candidate has in twenty years.

In an ideal world, I would like to see Mitt team up with Mike Huckabee. A Mitt for President, Huck for VP ticket would do a lot to unify the conservative base of the party. Huckabee doesn't have the money to go all the way, especially against Hillary, but together, Mitt and Huck present the most brilliant contrast to Hillary and clan I can imagine from the current list of GOP candidates. (Thompson is not active in his church, which bothers me...)

What makes a better headline than a Mormon and an Evangelical working together to stop Hill-Bill?

My prayers (and money) are with Mitt!

Posted by: Jed_Merrill | October 27, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Mitt ftw.

Posted by: Jed_Merrill | October 27, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Mitt Romney is correct. Unfortunately a lot of folks in our corrupt liberal MSM wolfpack press and their "contaminated plants" continue to lie about Mitt's positions. Bottom line is this, like Ronald Reagan, Mitt has flipped on one issue, abortion. That's it! All the other themes and sterotypes being "generated" are exactly that liberal lies and propaganda because the wolfpack and their pals the Democrats KNOW Mitt Romney must be de-railed as the GOP nominee. Mitt is Mr. Clean with ZERO skeletons in his closet. There isn't any candidate running from either party that can claim that. Mitt's the most qualified candidate to ever run for president and that's why I'm voting for Mitt Romney.

Posted by: bridgeway | October 27, 2007 7:27 AM | Report abuse

WTF Mr.Shear!!! Why do you write that the kid "accused Romney of supporting gay rights" when the video shows totally different picture. The kid says Romney supported gay marriage and Romney says that he never supported gay marriage but supported equal treatment for gays. Are you stupid or what?

Posted by: yakrymov | October 27, 2007 3:57 AM | Report abuse

To Daly4Chris:

Kudos! You asked a tough question, pressed your case and handled yourself more professionally than many veteran reporters have done.

You did exactly what you set out to do: showcase Romney's inconsistencies. Romney's problem is that he can't remember what he said when.

Great job!

Posted by: jade7243 | October 26, 2007 8:49 PM | Report abuse

In replying to DanLounsbury Quote:

"Civil rights have never involved rights to marriage." Jasonmaxfield said

But Dan, until a few decades ago, interracial marriage was illegal in many states.

The truth is that it was Loving v. Virginia, the 1969 Supreme Court case, that finally overturned the prohibition against interracial marriage. This was indeed a civil rights issue; whites and blacks could no longer be prohibited, by race, from contracting a legal marriage.

Posted by: dmaxdavies | October 26, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

With Mitt love 'em hate 'em, he's running the campaign correctly and outworking his opponents.

He's meeting with the people while Thompson is on the couch. If I were ever to run for an elected office, I would study that way that Mitt has organized his efforts...

He's not as cool as Obama nor as folksy as "W", but he's very organized, very competent, and is a work horse...

If nothing else, accept that

Posted by: ClubbieTim | October 26, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

DanLounsbury wrote:

"Civil rights have never involved rights to marriage."

But Dan, until a few decades ago, interracial marriage was illegal in many states.

I'm a bit younger than you, but I believe the movement to change those laws is broadly referred to as the 'Civil Rights Movement'.

You speak about marriage as an institution that is thousands of years old, but clearly even heterosexual marriage in modern America is a profoundly different institution that what we had here a few decades ago.

My marriage is very different from my great-grandparents, and I'm glad for the change.

The past isn't all it's cracked up to be Dan.

Posted by: jasonmaxfield | October 26, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse


Actually, telling someone that they can't do something because of who or what they are is pretty much the definition of discrimination. You should at least get comfortable with the term if you are going to advocate for it.

Posted by: christopherkendaljones | October 26, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

mattmcdonough2000: LOL! WRONG. Hillary will look and sound like a frumpy hausfrau standing next to Mitt Romney in a debate. Mitt's quick, articulate and SMART. He'll chew her up and spit her out.

Posted by: Angela5 | October 26, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Seriously mattmcdonough2000, a Clinton supporter. Do you like her or do you just miss the good ole days when her Husband in name only ran the White House. If you really want a repeat of the Clinton White House you need to remember how embarrasing that house was. Maybe you should remember Rwanda, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Monica Lewinsky, all all of those health care/social security/welfare reforms that never happened.

If that's not the reason you want her in is it because you honestly think she can lead this nation. Ha! I want a woman to run for president, not a female who has done anything, including marrying Bill, to get political gain. Hilary's not running for President because she wants to make America better by improving our foreign image and incouraging congress to actually do something worth while; she's running because Hilary loves Hilary. You talk of flip flopping, well she fits the definition. She voted in favor of the Iraq war. She has been Senator for how long now and is just coming up with an idea for health care in New York. Good timing. Wait for it till it helps her out by making her look like she cares about our well-being. Lets ignore the fact that she ignored health care till she announced her candidacy for President.

Why don't you switch to the Obama campaign. He's honest, he has stayed consistent, he's smart, and he's much more qualified to reach out to the world.

Posted by: MissRed | October 26, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Daly - Semantics, I think, is the word you may need. You're going to hear that word a lot in the next 12 months. Ignore the criticism here - you did a great job! It takes courage to do what you did. I hope you stay involved politically and keep asking those tough questions for the rest of your life.

Posted by: paulaann25 | October 26, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

as the person who asks him the question in the video, I would like to clear up a few things. first, i do understand that he was against gay marrige. I mis-heard him when he asked me about the article. I did say the first time, when i asked the question that he was talking about gay rights. The point I was making was that he is not a great advocate for gay rights now like he said he would be. I and many others view marriage as a right, and I am not saying that Mr. Romney hates gay people. All I am saying is that he is not as supportive of the gay community now as he promised to be then.
I also wanted to say that he made a complete turn on abotion rights, which was overlook while Mr. Romney decided to become very nit-picky with word choice. That is an issue on which he undeniably fliped, showing that he may have another change in heart while he is president.
I just wanted him to clarify these issues to me, and I was not trying to sound "smart," I did not plan on this being in the Washington Post when I thought of what I should ask him.

Posted by: daly4chris | October 26, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow to my suprise Romney had an understandable answer to that question. I will not vote for him. I am voting for HUCKABEE. He is truely the person to beat Hillary. But more importantly, he is the person to lead our country. Take the time to look at hs record in Arkansas. He was able to cross the isle and get things accompished for the good!

Posted by: branam1 | October 26, 2007 12:29 PM | Report abuse

The problem for Mr. Romney is that he is on the record as being both pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. You see, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, as the "moderate" (some say even "liberal") Republican, he made a few commercials, where he "approved the message." And he made a whole bunch of speeches. And said some stuff to some reporters who seem to have saved their notes.

Prep school, public school, home school or no school, we can figure it out: Romney has a credibility problem. He changes opinions like some people change their socks.

Young Mr. Daly got it right: How can anyone trust any opinion (or anything else for that matter) that comes out of Willard "Mitt" Romney's mouth?

Short answer? They can't.

Posted by: jade7243 | October 26, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I thought Romney was '""Brainwashed""' in Viet Nam. Whoops, wrong one!

Posted by: rtreff | October 26, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Don't be fooled by any of this. That 15 y/o will one day turn out to be just like the rest of them. He is at a "Prep School" now and will most likely go to Yale or Harvard, etc. Join some secret society and one day end up in politics trying to convince us all that he is different from the guy or gal he is running against (who most likely grew up in the same environment). When will the idiots who vote in America realize this and WAKE UP!

Posted by: emant2 | October 26, 2007 8:33 AM | Report abuse

" "You see," Romney started, obviously eager to explain. "No one that I know, even Ted Kennedy, wasn't for gay marriage at the time." "

Try interpreting THAT statement for example. Of course, the RomneyBots will claim it is clear as day!! Ask an *unbiased* source what they think.

Posted by: devilingr | October 26, 2007 5:37 AM | Report abuse

" "They said I was opposed to gay marriage? Did they say I was in favor of gay marriage? Then they were wrong," Romney said."

Wow... creepy answer. Which one were they wrong about? This is the problem with Mitt, he is anything you want him to be. Completely ambiguous with his answers.

If he gets the nomination, he is going to trip over himself trying to sell himself as more liberal than Hillary.

This guy really is a joke, and apparently even 15yos can see it. So long, Mitt!

Posted by: devilingr | October 26, 2007 5:34 AM | Report abuse

I actually think the press has beat these "flip flops" to death so badly even they are going to be tired of repeating them by the time Mitt is squaring off against Hillary. The fact is that Romney has been consistently conservative ever since his senate campaign 14 years ago. Sure you can cut and pastes some inconsistencies, but several of those exist because the issues have evolved as well (gay marriage and illegal immigration explosion, for instance). It is really disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to try to make these out as "flip flops."

Even the Log Cabin republicans who have nothing better to do with their life than follow Mitt around admit he never came out in favor gay marriage. I think it is telling that these educated prep schoolers laughed, revealing that they actually thought that being opposed to gay marriage was "discrimination." It wasn't enough that Romney opposes discrimination in employment, housing, education admissions, etc. Am I discriminating if I believe a polygamist shouldn't marry two women or vice versa? Of course not, it has more do with my belief in a several thousand year old tradition which evolution has proven serves us well. Liberals like to make all sorts of distinctions and exceptions like these. When Romney makes a distinction between his support of gay rights, (just not so far as marriage is concerned), it doesn't take an advanced degree to see the two positions are entirely consistent. Civil rights have never involved rights to marriage.

If someone moves to a more liberal position the press and "intellectuals" welcome them as finally enlightened. If the opposing happens and one becomes more conservative, you are an opportunist. Statistically, the older and wiser you get the more likely you are to embrace conservatism. It has been true of my, who, once like these smart alecs, thought I was too smart for conservatism.

Posted by: DanLounsbury | October 26, 2007 3:13 AM | Report abuse

It is absolutely possible to be against gay marriage and still support gay people. They should not be discriminated against, they should not be harrassed, they should not be rejected for jobs, housing etc. The subject of gay marriage is JUST ONE ASPECT of the homosexual issue. I think that Mitt can be FOR nondiscrimination against gays and still not be FOR gay marriage. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: jarincarolyn | October 26, 2007 12:07 AM | Report abuse

That is why many things are esoteric."Evangelicals for Mitt"and "The Mittreport"..WAKE UP AND SMELL THE POSTUM

Posted by: chuckthetruck | October 25, 2007 11:54 PM | Report abuse

and blood will you smell ... young neocoM...blood WILL you smell the Yoda ...Ann Romney is going to whip Hillary's *#*.Even with MS because Ann makes her own granola and has five grown sons. So line up on the left you ignorant bigot

Posted by: chuckthetruck | October 25, 2007 11:50 PM | Report abuse

This sounds like "flip-flopping" of a higher order--like a fish flopping around out of water, gasping for air. I got a hearty laugh out of Romney's tortured explanation even in this second-hand account--I can only imagine how rich it was to witness in person. By the way, if Romney does somehow become the Republican standard-bearer in the general election, Hillary will make mince-meat of him. As an ardent Clinton supporter, I can already smell the blood.

Posted by: mattmcdonough2000 | October 25, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? Are the media folks so intent on repeating these ridiculous accusations of Romney's flip flops that they're propping up a 15 year old kid who uncritically read a newspaper article and spouted it off to sound intelligent? I'm certainly not one of those anti-media right wingers but this article, combined with all the other anti-Mitt press out there, is just surprising. Maybe this kid is getting propped up because uncritical reading is just what political reporters want. Sheesh.

Posted by: txindep | October 25, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

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